Telenor says no plans to have operations in all India circles

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Telenor says no plans to have operations in all India circles
Norwegian telecom major Telenor Tuesday said it has no plans to have operations in all circles across India although any possibility of consolidation cannot be ruled out.

"We are not planning to go pan-India," Telenor Group President and Chief Executive Jon Fredrik Baksaas told reporters at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

"Does that mean that we would not look at consolidations? Of course, we will be a part of the consolidation speculation in some way or the other but concrete actions in that direction cannot be visualised at this point of time," he added.

The Indian government recently announced guidelines that allow companies to merge with up to 50 percent combined market share in terms of both subscriber numbers and adjusted gross revenues from telecom services.

(Also see: Telenor wants further reduction in spectrum base price)

Telenor's India unit Uninor currently has presence in seven circles. The company has acquired additional spectrum in four circles and added Assam circle to its network.

Uninor holds spectrum purchased through auction and therefore, the company will not have to pay additional price if it plans to acquire any other company holding airwaves purchased through auction.

The M&A guidelines say that acquirers of companies holding spectrum, allocated at old rate, will have to pay to the government the difference between the initial amount (Rs. 1,658 crore for pan-India as per 2001 auction) and the market rate determined through the latest auction.

"We from Telenor perspective are ok with the spectrum that we added to our circles. We have an attackers mindset in India to the extent that we address that part of the market which are at the lower end of the pyramid and we create afforadibility, that is our survival tactic," he said.

Baksaas said the tactic has worked for the company even during the period when it did not had security on licenced spectrum.

Uninor's licences in all the circles were cancelled by the Supreme Court in its February 2012 order. The company then bought spectrum in six circles in the November 2012 auction.

(Also see: Uninor to shut operations in Kolkata, West Bengal)

It also bought spectrum for Assam circle in the recently concluded spectrum auction.

Baksaas, however, said the India market is still to settle down though there is some peace on the spectrum side.

"Will the Indian market settling? No, no but have we a better platform now than we had before, yes because the last auctions that just concluded was an auction that at least for a period of time give some peace and quite at least from the spectrum side," he added

Asked about the perspective of foreign investors regarding taxation disputes in India such as Vodafone, Baksaas said any tax regime should not be implemented with retrospective effect.

On increasing its stake in Uninor to 100 percent, he refused to comment.

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